Atrial Fibrillation (Part 1): Pathophysiology, Risk Factors, and Therapeutic Basis
Abstract Atrial fibrillation is the most common sustained arrhythmia in clinical practice, with a preference for older age groups. Considering population ageing, the projections for the next decades are alarming. In addition to its epidemiological importance, atrial fibrillation is evidenced by its clinical repercussions, including thromboembolic phenomena, hospitalizations, and a higher mortality rate. Its pathophysiological mechanism is complex and involves an association of hemodynamic, structural, electrophysiological, and autonomic factors. Since the 1990s, the Framingham study of multivariate analyses has demonstrated that hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, and valvular disease are independent predictors of this rhythm abnormality along with age. However, various other risk factors have been recently implicated in an increase of atrial fibrillation cases, such as sedentary behavior, obesity, sleep disorders, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol use. Moreover, changes in quality of life indicate a reduction in atrial fibrillation recurrence, thus representing a new strategy for excellence in the treatment of this cardiac arrhythmia. Therapeutic management involves a broad knowledge of the patient’s health state and habits, comprehending 4 main pillars: lifestyle changes and rigorous treatment of risk factors; prevention of thromboembolic events; rate control; and rhythm control. Due to the dimension of factors involved in the care of patients with atrial fibrillation, integrated actions performed by interprofessional teams are associated with the best clinical results.